Tennessee didn’t have enough firepower to keep pace with No. 2 Alabama on Saturday afternoon.
The Volunteers dropped a 48-17 decision to the Crimson Tide inside Neyland Stadium. It was the third consecutive loss for the Vols – who fall to 2-3 on the season.
“Looking at the game, I thought offensively it was one of the better games we played,” Pruitt said. “We did have one turnover for a touchdown, which is inexcusable, but we started running the ball at times pretty well, and I thought we protected pretty well for the most part, but just didn’t have the time of possession Alabama had, which goes back to the defense about getting off the field and being more stout in the run game and getting off the field on third down.”
“It’s just what I told the players in there, I see a lot of guys that are trying really hard, but we’re making mistakes, and as coaches and players, we’ve got to go back and be able to execute at a higher level. A lot of guys were playing really hard, we just made mistakes in the game as far as over routes and giving up explosive plays like that.”
Jarrett Guarantano was 13-of-24 passing for 162 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Tennessee offense.
“You talk about being in a rough week, Jarrett can’t control what anybody else does,” Pruitt said. “All Jarrett can control is what he does. Just like the rest of us in that locker room. That’s what he needs to focus on and I thought he did a nice job this week being mature about it and focusing on the things he needed to improve. He did a nice job managing the offense today, had some scrambles out there, and was accurate on some throws. That was good to see.”
The Tennessee defense set the tone early by forcing Alabama to punt on the game’s opening drive. However, the Vols were only able to pick up one first down on their opening drive.
From there, Alabama took control despite losing star wide receiver Jaylen Waddle on the opening kickoff.
The Crimson tide scored on their next four possessions – including a Najee Harrie and Mac Jones scores in the opening quarter – while limiting the Tennessee offense.
After the Vols entered the second quarter trailing 14-0, Brett Cimaglia put Tennessee on the board with a 33-yard field goal with 12:11 left in the half.
Alabama responded on their next drive with a Brian Robinson touchdown, Guarantano hit freshman Jalin Hyatt for a 38-yard score to pull Tennessee within 11 points.
The Crimson Tide, however, answered with another Harris touchdown to take a 28-10 lead into the half.
Alabama’s defense opened the scoring 33 seconds into the second half as Malachi Moore had a scoop and score that covered 28 yards. Harris added his third touchdown of the night to push the Alabama lead to 42-10.
Guarantano got Tennessee back on the board late in the third quarter as he hit Josh Palmer in the corner of the endzone for a 27-yard touchdown.
The Crimson Tide added a pair of Will Riechard field goals to account for the final score in the fourth quarter.
The freshman Hyatt finished with 86 yards to go along with his score, while Palmer added 57 yards on four catches.
On the ground, Eric Gray and Ty Chandler had 57 and 37 yards, respectively.
The Tennessee defense was led by Trevon Flowers who had 10 total tackles.
“Nobody is more disappointed than the people within our program, I can assure you,” Pruitt said. “It’s the reason that I wanted this job. I understood the passion, the energy, and the expectations of Tennessee football. When I took the job, I knew exactly where it was at, which is why I wanted the job. I wanted this job because I wanted to get it to where it’s supposed to be.”
“It’s a heck of a challenge. I’m excited about being here. I’m not discouraged. The people in our program aren’t discouraged. I know where our program’s headed and we’ll get there.”
Pruitt sees this upcoming open week as a great opportunity – especially for the younger players on the team.
“This next week will be a great opportunity,” Pruitt said. “We’ve got a lot of young players in our program that try really hard but, based off opportunities, they haven’t had a whole lot of chances to really learn and create the right habits. This next week will be a great opportunity for them. So that’s what we’ve got to do.”
“We’re off this next week. Got to go back and go back to work.”
The open week does pose some concerns for Pruitt in the era of COVID-19.
“Hopefully, we’ll continue to do what we’re supposed to do when it comes to COVID,” Pruitt said. “Because we’ve had five weeks now where we’ve been COVID free which will give us an opportunity to improve as a football team.”
Tennessee returns to action on November 7 with a trip to Arkansas. Kick time is to be announced.
All photos courtesy of Tennessee Athletics Communications.